Politiziced Visuals for Sustainable Energy: ‘Evidence’ of Candor and Deceit, or an Opportunity for Democratization?

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In a transition to sustainable energy, ‘citizen detectives’ provide substantial insights that contribute to accomplishing this transition. Their framings – both in words and images - could be included in these transformations as an important form of public accountability. In this paper we build on the idea of an ‘ocular democracy’ in which the democratic value of candor (sincerity) is almost extorted by the ‘eyes of the people’ and can no longer be ignored. On one hand, governing actors need to provide visual evidence to support their decisions and ‘give account’, on the other hand citizen detectives produce visuals to hold governing actors accountable. But, what is represented in these visuals?

This exploratory study of visual framings about shale gas and geothermal energy demonstrates that 'citizen detectives' reveal unknown or repressed information to critically assess the normative and technical framings by dominant discourse coalitions. They do so by producing referential, informational images; and condensation, emotion stirring images. While the referential visuals seem to represent new (interpretations of) information; the condensation visuals seem to represent (conflicting) concerns actors have. The referential visuals are most of all produced to give account for governing actions – or are produced to hold governors and businesses accountable for their actions. The condensation visuals are most of all used to mobilize other citizens and create a counter discourse –and work as the eye of the public that watches governing actors. Through the visuals, the meaning of a sustainable energy transition is politicized, negotiated, deliberated, and adapted in order to come to a more inclusive and democratic meaning and practice of a ‘sustainable energy transition’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventECPR General Conference 2018 - Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Duration: 22 Aug 201825 Aug 2018


ConferenceECPR General Conference 2018
Internet address

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